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Forex challenge thwarts Nigeria's telecom expansion plans

Forex challenge thwarts Nigeria's telecom expansion plans

Access to foreign exchange remains the single biggest challenge for telecommunications operators in Nigeria, representing an obstacle to business reach and service delivery - particularly within remote regions.

While officials have confirmed the government's intention to extend telecoms access to a further 40 million people, the industry is characterised by a reduction in the number of new base transceiver stations or base stations built by telecoms companies and tower operators.

Industry players revealed that with the exception of broadband companies, there are fewer requests for tower services as telecoms operators are no longer keen to expand their operations to previously unreached regions choosing, instead, to optimise their current infrastructure to deliver 4G LTE particularly in densely populated and commercially viable areas.

David Venn, CEO of ISP Spectranet, said operators are finding it difficult to access foreign exchange, which they need for the equipment required for network expansion.

"Operators need equipment to build towers. In the last one year it has been difficult for us to access dollars to import equipment for network expansion as well as adding capacity... the ones we are doing is from the equipment we imported before the new policy on foreign exchange, for big operators it has been very difficult for them to import equipment which has affected their efforts in adding capacity."

Beyond the need to expand service reach, Nigeria's geographical area of 910, 768 square kilometres requires over 182,000 base stations to shore up service quality, according to the recommended 5 kilometres radius between each base transmission station.

However, Nigeria only has approximately 26,000 base stations.

"Effective coverage of geographical area requires deployment of base transceiver station (BTS) also known base station within the standard 5 kilometres radius," said Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON).

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